Last fall, when Kik Messenger launched for iOS, Android and Blackberry, I quickly urged my friends to download the app and quit costing me an arm and a leg in SMS fees. The Kik honeymoon lasted but a short while, however. Soon enough, I was in love again, but this time it was all about spreading the love - Beluga had come along and shown me the ways of free, SMS-style messaging with groups of friends.
Today, Kik has come a-calling again, trying to woo lost lovers like myself with the feature we've all been talking about - group messaging.
According to the company's blog post, Kik has added two new features that we've seen all over the mobile communications realm - picture sharing and group messaging. (Lest we forget, the company also announced $8 million in funding, but it's more the group messaging aspect that we're interested in here.) The company explains that it thinks that other group messaging apps haven't gotten it quite right yet, however, "because they still have the same 'talk to all' mentality."
I don't know about you, but it's not often I want to message all my college friends at once. Or all of my soccer friends at once. Or everyone from work at once. But these other apps force me to do just that. It turns what could be a dynamic conversation into a mobile message board: "Ted: soccer game at 8 guys." "Mike: Ok." "Joe: Cool." And then silence.
With Kik, we wanted to create a product that allows you to have a real time conversation with one or more people. We wanted to allow conversations to expand and contract naturally, just like they do in real life. And we did just that. In Kik you don't create a group, you just add someone to the conversation...instantaneously.
When I look at an app like GroupMe, which focuses entirely on group communication, I can see that the point is a valid one. Just to get started, I need to create a group and name it. With Beluga, it's slightly different, as I start by adding the people I want to communicate with, whether one or many, and have the option to add a group picture, name and description afterward. I don't need to think about the why or what, just the who. At any point, members may be removed or added from the conversation.
Kik's group messaging feature allows for up to 10 people in a chat, boasting speed as one of its standout features. Competitors llike Beluga and GroupMe stand apart, however, by showing a map of all members of a conversation and including non-smartphone owners by using SMS.
The success or failure of apps like Kik come down to one big thing - do your friends use it? For me, the SMS inclusiveness of Beluga and GroupMe are a big factor. Both Beluga and GroupMe also make it simple to invite friends - just add their names and the app sends them an SMS. With Kik, on the other hand, the process is a bit more convoluted. Kik may make the group creation process quick and easy, but if I need to invite my friend and wait for them to download and install the app before communicating with them, I'm going to go with Beluga or GroupMe every time.